By Prabin Khaling
Gangtok,Feb 3:On the occasion of World Wetlands Day on February 2, 2012 the Lachen Dzumsa consisting of the Pipons, Gyambos, Chultimpa (representative of Lamas),along with the public of Lachen has decided to announce a ban on mineral water bottles in the village of Lachen and above from the upcoming tourist season. This decision has been made as an initiative for conservation of the holy lake of Gurudongmar situated at 5183 meters, which over the years has been growing as a tourist destination in the state. The lake area is a biodiversity hotspot and also highly significant as it is one of the main sources for river Teesta, and believed to be touched and blessed by Guru Padmasambhava. Receiving more than fifteen thousand visitors annually in the form of pilgrims and tourists, one of the major threats to the holy lake is from garbage disposal.
This was clearly indicated during the cleanliness campaign organised jointly by WWF-India and Lachen Tourism development Committee in collaboration with the Lachen Dzumsa around the lake side, on the occasion of World Environment Day 2011, which brought out 30 big sacks of tins, plastics of which a large part was mineral water bottles. Not only Gurudongmar lake, an excessively huge amount of empty mineral water bottles were brought out during the cleanliness drive in Lachen Village also which highlighted an immediate concern for management of such garbage.
Understanding the need for having a proper garbage management and regulation process in place, Lachen Dzumsa, with assistance from LTDC and WWF will develop a strategy for monitoring of the garbage that goes up to the lake, and ensuring that it is brought back to Lachen. A proposal for construction of a garbage segregation chamber at Lachen is also in the pipeline. While all items that produce garbage cannot be regulated, the mineral water bottle is one such product that can easily be done away with, by provision of a safe alternative. Tourists will have to sensitized on the matter so that they understand the reason for the ban and also come to realize that natural mountain water is safer and healthier than those packaged and sold in plastic bottles. With the decision of this ban, Lachen becomes the first village in Sikkim to ban the use and sell of bottled water.
The model will look into possibility of complete ban on the use of bottled water in Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake with promotion of filtered water for the tourists at these villages. Proper testing of the water being provided in place of mineral water will be conducted by certified agencies to assure tourists on the safety of the drinking water.
After a series of meetings with the local stakeholders in Lachen, finally on the occasion of the World Wetlands Day, the Lachen Dzumsa proudly announces the strict ban on use and sell of bottled water in Lachen from the coming tourist season. This Dzumsa resolution will be imposed on all Tourists visiting Lachen, local Shops, hotels and the general public, and a fine will be prescribed by the Dzumsa against offenders. The local area MLA Mr. TW Lepcha has supported this positive initiative taken by the Lachen Dzumsa for tackling the garbage menace. Lachen Dzumsa looks forward to help and cooperation from Tourism Department, TAAS and Police Department to make this ban successful.